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Stores Open to Large Shopping Crowds; Iowa Polls Show Close Three Way Race; Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry Not Qualified to be on the Ballot in Virginia; Slaughter in Syria; Deadly Car Bombing Rattles Iraq; Hackers Target Global Think Tank; Egyptian Blogger Freed After Two Months; Man Who Tackled "Underwear Bomber" Sues; "Tube" Strike On Boxing Day; Obama Celebrates Christmas In Hawaii; Likely Entertainment Highlights for 2012

Aired December 26, 2011 - 07:00   ET



ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It's like Christmas part two. Stores bracing for the post-holiday blitz, hoping it will be a black Monday today.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Iowa up for grabs. The new poll has Ron Paul on top with two other candidates within two percentage points, but the big headline this morning, Newt Gingrich admitting his campaign may have just experienced a Pearl Harbor moment.

CHO: City under siege in Syria. A bloody Christmas Sunday as Arab league observers go in to try to end the deadly crackdown.

VELSHI: And will 2012 be the year of Madonna? Why the Material Girl is poised for a comeback and what else you'll be talking about one year from now on this AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO (on-camera): Good morning. It's Monday, December 26th. Boxing Day for people in Canada, our neighbors to the north and other places around the world.

VELSHI: For Americans it's not, so hopefully sleep in. Take it easy.

CHO: You should be up and watching.

VELSHI: Watch, but don't get out of bed. Even Santa Claus is taking it easy. He's on a bit of a break. But you're not. Millions of people are heading back to the stores this morning even here in the United States. Analysts say the Monday after Christmas day may actually be the third biggest shopping day of the year.

Alison Kosik is live outside Macy's Herald Square in New York City, a place we associate with the days before Christmas. But look at the folks behind you. What is going on there?

ALISON KOSIK, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: You just missed it, Ali. A few seconds before it was packed in here. These are the doors that lead right into the department store, Macy's here. It was packed. This is just one, one of the entrances to Macy's where people have been waiting in line just to get in, because it's ready, set, return.

But it's not only about returns today, Ali. It's also about shopping. We took another -- some pictures of other shoppers standing outside an H&M store waiting in line at 6:30 in the morning just to get in because of the discounts these stores offering. Ali?

VELSHI: Alison, some of this is because, we got off to a good start with black Friday. It looked very, very strong. And it appears some of that tapered off, and stores ended up with more inventory than they thought they would. So they didn't clear it all out through the holiday season?

KOSIK: Exactly. So what it really becomes a really a shopper's paradise. But for retailers, it's a scramble to get their merchandise moving off the shelves because, as you said, they're left with a lot of merchandise they want to get rid of because the spring stuff moves in. So what you're seeing deep discounts.

Even when people go to return their Christmas gifts, the hope is that these retailers have, that that shirt, they'll return the old gifts but go ahead and walk out, not empty-handed but with some other things that they'll buy instead. Also retailers, Ali, are hoping that gift cards are used here at the stores today. And what usually happens is people often buy more than the gift card is worth so they put more money back into the retailer as well. Ali?

VELSHI: This becomes a very important day and week for retailers, more important than in recent years. Alison Kosik, you'll keep an eye on what's going on there for us in front of Macy at Herald Square. Alison Kosik for us right now.

CHO: Three Republicans separated by just two percentage points in the race for Iowa. With just eight days to go before the caucuses kick off there, anybody's guess who might come out on top. CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser tracking all of the trends for is live in Iowa, live this morning. Paul, good morning. So Ron Paul in the lead?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Ron Paul? Yes. It's hard to believe. No, it's not hard to believe at all. Ron Paul's numbers jumping, surging over the last month or two.

You just alluded to this poll from the American Research Group. This is among people likely to go to the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd. There's Ron Paul at the top, 21 percent, Mitt Romney at 20 percent and Newt Gingrich at 19 percent. Alina, basically a three-way traffic jam for the top, everybody with the sampling there, the other candidates in single digits according to this survey.

And, yes, it really is anybody's guess right now who's going to come out on top here in Iowa. A lot of factors in play. Ron Paul, why is he doing so well? Listen, he has a strong ground here, a strong organization, more than the other candidates, and his followers, supporter, very energetic and enthusiastic, Alina. CHO: You know, Paul, Mike Huckabee who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 says it's weather could influence new wins. It often does. Here's what he said. Watch.


MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS HOST: If the weather is good, Mitt Romney is in better shape. If the weather is bad, and it's real tough to get out, Ron Paul will win.


CHO: All right, Paul. Does that sound about right to you?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. It makes sense. Listen, Huckabee knows what he's talking about. He pulled off that upset four years ago in Iowa. He make as good point. Right now, when weather looks pretty good, at least this week no snow on the ground and temperatures are actually warmer than they normally are here in Iowa. The have a lot of temperatures in the 40s. So that could help Romney and the other candidates whose followers aren't at devoted, energetic, and enthusiastic as Ron Paul. It takes a lot to come out on a cold winter night. You've really got to be into it, Alina.

CHO: With eight days to go before Iowa, we're also looking at New Hampshire, January 10th, the primary there. Who's on top of the latest poll over there?

STEINHAUSER: Mitt Romney continues to be on top. It's been that way for two, three years now in New Hampshire. I guess you could call New Hampshire Mitt Romney's firewall if things don't go well for him here in Iowa. A brand new poll came out yesterday morning, Christmas morning. There's Romney at the top, 39 percent, with Gingrich and Paul tied at 17 percent. There's Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor, at 11 percent. He's not campaigning in Iowa. He's spending all his time in New Hampshire.

But throw those polls away, I guess. Whatever happens here in Iowa will affect what happens in New Hampshire one week later, guys.

CHO: That's certainly right. Paul Steinhauser, watching it all for us from Des Moines, Iowa, thank you.

VELSHI: Lucky Paul, standing out there in Des Moines at 6:00 in the morning, morning time.

Republicans risk losing a seat in the Senate if he don't back Indiana's Dick Lugar for a seventh term. And this is from Dick Lugar. The 79-year-old senator is facing a primary challenge from a Tea Party backed candidate in his state. Senator Lugar telling CNN's Candy Crowley he believes a Tea Party win in that primary could set the Republican Party back in a big way.


SEN. DICK LUGAR, (R) INDIANA: Republicans who are running for reelection ought to be supported by people who want to see that majority. So I think the majority of Tea Party people understand that, too. What they're hopeful is --

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Just so I understand what you mean is you think that you have the best chance of keeping this seat Republican?


CROWLEY: That's what you're arguing?

LUGAR: No doubt, from all of our polling and understanding that that is the case. And as a matter of fact, if I was not nominee, it might be lost.


CHO: Six minutes after the hour. Other stories new this morning. More worries about Iraq's future after yet another deadly car bombing. Police say a suicide car bomber struck a security checkpoint right outside Iraq's interior ministry compound, killing at least two people. Dozens died in bombing since the last U.S. troops left Iraq just a week ago.

VELSHI: A fire sweeping through an advertising executive's Connecticut home early Christmas morning killing her three children and her parents. Madonna Badger escaped the house along with a family friend. Both were taken to the hospital and later released. Firefighters tried to make rescues but were pushed back by intense heat and flames.

CHO: Arson blamed for a Christmas fire that burned a post office in Nevada. Investigators found anti-government graffiti and bullet holes in the building. The blaze began outside, but firefighters sprayed water into the mailboxes and that soaked the mail inside. About 800 people use that post office. Officials are working to restore the wet mail and deliver it to customers.

VELSHI: And hackers recover a global security think tank based in the United States. The group Anti-Sect loosely affiliated with Anonymous bragged online about stealing confidential information from the company Strat-For, posting confidential client lists, e-mail and home addresses and release credit card information for about 4,000 subscribers. Among Strat-For's list of clients, Bank of America, Lockheed Martin, and the Defense Department.

CHO: Wow.

A delegation of South Korean citizens crossing the DMZ heading into North Korea to mourn the loss of Kim Jong-il. The group is led by a former South Korean first lady, her husband, former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach peace on the peninsula. Seoul has approved the civilian group's visit but did not send an official delegation.

VELSHI: And thousands poured into St. Peters square to hear the Pope's annual Christmas message. The celebration started off with the unveiling a larger than life nativity scene. Pope Benedict prayed for world peace and an end to violence in Syria and comfort in the flood stricken Philippines.

CHO: And the NBA back in action on Christmas Day. The Dallas Mavericks raising the championship banner and then falling to LeBron James and the Miami heat 105-94, the king leading the way with 37 points.

Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers squared off against MVP Derek Rose and the Chicago Bulls. Rose hit the winning shot with under five seconds to play. The Bulls sweep it out, 88-87. And the New York Knicks knocked off the Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony scoring 37 points, leading New York to a 106-104 victory.

VELSHI: Coming up this morning, a potential setback for Newt Gingrich. Why the former House speaker says he may have just experienced a Pearl Harbor moment.

CHO: And new allegations of a civilian slaughter in Syria. A city under constant attack for days as the Arab League steps in to try to end the government's bloody crackdown.

VELSHI: And new year's predictions. What will be the biggest pop culture trend in 2012? We'll tell you what to watch for.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's 10 minutes after the hour.


VELSHI: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Eight days to go before the Iowa caucuses. The race for the Republican nomination continues to be very interesting. Here to talk about what you missed over the holiday weekend, including why two candidates will not appear on one super Tuesday ballot, is CNN contributor Will Cain. He is with us in our New York studio. Live from Washington, Democratic strategist Kiki McLean. Welcome to both of you. I hope you had an excellent Christmas. Thank you for being with us on this fairly busy political morning, when you think about everything that's happened on the weekend.

Will, let me start with you. Virginia, we're talking about Iowa and New Hampshire. I want to stop and go to Virginia. Something happened in Virginia that is very interesting.


VELSHI: A number of candidates didn't make it on to the ballot. I thought it was a forgone conclusion if you're running for these things you have the operation that meets the needs of the state to get on the ballot. They had a 10,000 signature, and 400 that come from each of the districts within, and Gingrich in particular didn't make it.

CAIN: Not only Gingrich, but Rick Perry as well. When you look at rules for Virginia, you would say, something's up. Something's not right. Five of the seven GOP candidates aren't going to be on the ballot? Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are going to be on the ballot? That being said, the rules in place four years ago. You had luminaries like Fred Thompson making the ballot, Dennis Kucinich on the Democrats side. So the rules are the rules. If you have the organization, you should be able to make the ballot. It's somewhat embarrassing.

VELSHI: What about it, Kiki? Is Virginia not a priority or does it say something about their level of organization?

KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It says a lot about their level of organization, and you've got a record of Newt Gingrich actually touting he'll get on the ballot in Virginia and blowing up.

But here's what's really rotten about it for these two candidates, in particularly Perry and Gingrich, when you say we'll bypass Virginia. The reality is, you're going into the week of Iowa and New Hampshire, and you have a lot of undecided voters in both of those places who look up and say, what's the point? It would be a wasted vote. We don't know if these guys can compete, literally if they'll be allowed to compete. It's a real kind of sitting weight on them as they go into New Hampshire. Although there are a good pile of delegates --

VELSHI: Paul Steinhauser made this comment earlier. While we look at all the states individually and what they're going to do, the fact is momentum does matter. What happens in Iowa will have an impact in New Hampshire and going on. This might be a reverse impact. If somebody knows these candidates are not on the ballot in Virginia when they say, let me put my ballot somewhere.

In fact, Newt Gingrich is not taking this lightly. His response, he posted on Facebook -- sorry, his campaign director posted on Facebook, "Newt and I agree. The analogy is December, 1941. We've experienced an unexpected setback, but we will regroup and refocus with increased determination, commit, and positive action." They know they're in trouble.

Let's take a look, Will, at this new "Boston Globe" poll about New Hampshire now. It shows Romney still holding a very strong lead. 39 percent there, and then Gingrich, Ron Paul tied at 17 percent. Huntsman, who has put all of his energies in New Hampshire, is at 11 percent, the highest he is anywhere.

Now I want to take you to Iowa, the first race. Let's look at an American Research Group poll. Very different story. Ron Paul on top, 21 percent, Romney at 20 percent, Gingrich at 19 percent, and then Perry, Bachmann, Huntsman, Santorum. Huntsman picked up ahead of Santorum there as well. What do these polls tell you, if anything?

CAIN: The difference between the leader, 21 percent. I think Iowa is a jump ball. It's a little like being meteorologist. You're putting a lot of reputation and predicting power into one day, a day that I don't think will end up mattering that much. Who the winner is will not predict who the nominee is for the Republican Party. I'll say this, I don't think it's going to predict who the loser is.

New Hampshire is interesting and different. One thing it says, the inevitability, talk to you about it, Mitt Romney is slowly turning into acceptance simply because all the other rivals are unacceptable.

MCLEAN: I look up and say, Ali, I've had the pleasure of being a campaign that won an Iowa caucus, Dick Gephardt, and last time I checked didn't get sworn in for president. And I worked for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, and was there on the night both campaigns in that primary, President Obama and Secretary Clinton's, pollsters and the public polls was off by ten points. What that tells you is just how fluid this is. Both Iowa and New Hampshire can give opportunity, but they don't lock it up for anybody. You've had people like Pat Buchanan win New Hampshire. So when you look at what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire, it can create opportunity, but doesn't lock it up. Boy is this fluid going right down to the wire.

VELSHI: Sure it is. And I think I've heard words that Will uses like acceptance or inevitability for Mitt Romney. You're not thinking we're there?

MCLEAN: Not there. A lot of thing could happen. I actually worked for a guy named Bill Clinton who lost the New Hampshire primary, but New Hampshire catapulted him into a winning drive for the Democratic nomination. So what if Huntsman coming in second or third with a close race? What if there is a precipitous run?

The problem for Mitt Romney is he continues to drop while others continue to gain. Trends matter here. It's not necessarily the order in which they finish, it's what kind of gap are they closing or building out as they finish.

VELSHI: Will, what do you think about this whole Ron Paul operation? You know Mike Huckabee says if the weather's bad in Iowa, doesn't look like it's going to be bad, it hurts Romney because his folks don't feel that passionate about him. Ron Paul's people will climb large mountains to go cast ballots for him.

CAIN: I love it. Ron Paul's people like the post office, come rain, sleet, hail, Internet message boards, straw polls, they're there for that. Mitt Romney is the default candidate. If you're voting for somebody by default you're liable to look outside and say it's cloudy, I'm not going to the poll.

But I do disagree with Kiki. The end result matters more -- the actual electorate results will matter. And my prediction there is a sense of acceptance around Mitt Romney has less to do with the polls and more to do with an analysis of actual rivals and alternatives. Those candidates simply aren't realistic alternatives to Mitt Romney.

MCLEAN: And Will raising an interesting point with Virginia and how it affects the rest of the race for somebody like Gingrich. What that does is drive out donors. Donors look up, and they're placing bets to win, not passion of the moment, and donors like say, this guy can't manage a one-car funeral.

VELSHI: So here's the interesting thing. What you have, a situation where as Gingrich started to top in the polls you had all of these big endorsement, whether donors or important politicians coming out saying, look, this is the time to step on to Romney's train because otherwise we're getting one of that that.

If Romney doesn't come out with as strong a performance he needs in Iowa, do we now see another surge of these pro-Romney people sitting on the sidelines?

MCLEAN: I think you're close enough to this first bunch going through January 10th with Iowa and New Hampshire that you don't see big names locking in in the next six days, at least not before Iowa. The people who got credit for being there early, that box is checked. Right now you may want to wait and see what happens.

VELSHI: Very interesting. It remains very, very interesting for folks like you who follow it as we have for a long time. I'm not sure we would have guessed that the end of the December coming into January it would still be this riveting a spectacle. Kiki, great to see you, Kiki McLean Democratic strategist, and Will Cain, a CNN contributor, columnist with "The Blaze," good friend of ours. Thanks to both of you, by the way. I know a lot of people would rather sleep in on the day after Christmas. But there is politics and news to do. Alina?

CHO: You're absolutely right. Thanks, guys. It's 21 after the hour.


VELSHI: Boxing Day -- we don't think about it here, but in Canada, in England, look that. That's what they do. It's like black Friday. Shoppers are rushing into stores in London. In London in, particular, the trains won't be running. We'll tell you why and what affect it will have. Richard Quest tweeting he's never seen sales like this. He's out in shopping now. It's 23 minutes after the hour.


VELSHI: It's 27 minutes after the hour. Markets in the U.S. and Europe are closed for Christmas today. They'll be open tomorrow. As the Friday, the S&P 500 is back in positive territory for 2011, the Dow up six percent for the year.

Retailers are trying to unload what they have left the day after Christmas is expected to be the third busiest shopping day of the year. estimates foot traffic in stores to be up 60 percent compared to this day last year.

Today is also the biggest day of the year for returns and exchanges. Shoppers are expected to bring back a record-setting $46 billion worth of unwanted presents. That's also according to

The airlines are turning planes into flying department stores and they're raking in billions. In fact 12 percent of airline revenues now come from onboard sales of food, drink, entertainment, and blankets, and analysts say they expect the trend to continue.

"Mission Impossible," cruised to the top of a quiet weekend box office. The sequel raked in $26.5 million. Coming in second, another sequel, "Sherlock Homes, A Game of Shadows." Don't forget, for the very latest news about your money, check out the all-new AMERICAN MORNING will be right back after the break.


CHO: Stories of carnage in Syria. A government crackdown only getting more intense as the Arab world tries to step in on this AMERICAN MORNING.

VELSHI: Good morning. It's 30 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. And it is a busy one for us.

Let me bring you our top stories, more worries about Iraq's future after yet another deadly car bombing. Police say a suicide car bomber struck the security checkpoint right outside Iraq's Interior Ministry compound that killed at least two people. Dozens have died in bombings since the last U.S. troops left Iraq just a week ago.

CHO: Hackers target a global security think tank based in the U.S. The company, Stratfor, under attack by activist hacking group "Anti- Sec." "Anti-Sec" says it crashed Stratfor's web site, stole confidential client list and published the credit card information of some 4,000 subscribers. The breach appears to be revenge for the arrest of soldier, Bradley Manning, who's accused of giving information to Wikileaks.

VELSHI: A prominent Egyptian activist and blogger who became a symbol of the struggle there is now out of jail and calling the nation's new military rulers criminal, who are no better than Hosni Mubarak.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah was released from military detention yesterday nearly two months after his arrest. He still faces charges related to anti-government demonstrations earlier in the year.

CHO: The man who tackled the so-called underwear bomber on a plane on Christmas day two years ago is now suing two airlines for $10 million for letting him get onboard.

Theophilus Maranga claims he suffered physical, psychological injuries during the incident, including permanent numbness in his hand. He named Delta Airlines and Air France in the lawsuit.

Both airlines declined to comment. The underwear bomber is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty for trying to blow up the plane.

VELSHI: One activist says snipers are shooting at anything and everything. The slaughter continues in Syria this morning as the Arab League observers arrived to try to end the bloodshed.

The opposition says 13 more people were killed yesterday. The situation is dire in one city that's been under siege for days. Mohammed Jamjoom is watching developments from Cairo this morning.

Mohammed, what's the situation? What are these Arab League observers empowered to do? What are they likely to do? MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ali, we're getting even more disturbing news in the past hour. Opposition activists in the flash point city (inaudible) telling us now that at least 18 people have been killed. Hundreds injured.

That's just in the neighborhood of this area where this crackdown has been intensifying the past few days and this is on a day when about 50 members of the Arab League observation mission are set to arrive.

And it's leaving many people there wondering what exactly this mission will be able to accomplish while this crackdown is still going on.


JAMJOOM (voice-over): As the Syrian government crackdown intensifies, the first of a small group of outside observers is beginning to arrive in Damascus. We have no idea if the Arab League observers will be able to get close to the scenes of violence that continue to pour out of Syria.

Here a tank rolls down a street, a neighborhood in the flashpoint city of Homs. Activists say thousands of Syrian troops have recently surrounded it and are shelling it almost daily.

CNN can't verify many of the videos posted from Syria, but one Homs resident describes the carnage he's witness explaining how everyone has become a target.

ABU OMAR, HOMS RESIDENT (via telephone): I'm now near the field hospital. In the last two days, there is a lot of injury. More than 200 injuries in the last three days. They executed little children because they shout against the Assad. They bombing one house, a civilian house.

JAMJOOM: In the past week, the Syrian government's bombardment has escalated. The same day a protocol was fined allowing those Arab League observers into Syria. Activists say the Syrian army stormed a town (inaudible) a part of Idlib province.

This video purports to show family members mourning of loved ones who have died in what's being called a massacre. Residents of Idlib have become accustomed to the violence. Many even fear to bury their dead in public cemeteries.

In this video taken in November, some buried their loved ones near a deserted road. At a hospital, one injured demonstrator lays in his bed and tells of the horrors he's seen. I've seen wounded people taken by security forces with their oxygen masks still on, he says.

Another man described a crackdown he experienced. I was injured by gunfire in a protest, he says. Security forces fired on us and injured many youth, and one was killed. I went to a hospital and was treated.

With many Syrian neighborhoods deserted and besieged, many people are now questioning how effective the Arab League Observers Mission will be.


JAMJOOM: And Ali, when we speak to activists in Homs, they continue to use words like massacre, blood bath, carnage, many of them say that when the Arab League arrives, they need to come right away to Homs in order to prevent what people are fearing will be genocide.

Now, the Arab League has told us today that as of tomorrow, they plan to send observers to Homs, and the hope is that this Arab League mission will be able to try to put an end to some of the violence that's going on there.

VELSHI: All right, it remains to be seen what sort of authority or power they'll have to do so. But at least if they can get in and see what some of the reports are that we're getting, that would be helpful. Mohammed, thanks very much. Mohammed Jamjoom for us in Cairo.

CHO: Meanwhile in places like Canada and the U.K., today is their Black Friday. They're getting ready for a very hectic day in Boxing Day in London. The underground is shut there -- shut down there.

It's the tube that's expected to be at a standstill with workers going on strike today. But is that keeping shoppers away? I don't think so.

CNN Erin McLaughlin is live in London with more on that. Erin, good morning.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina. I am located just at the tail end of Carnaby Street, which is really in the heart of the one of the premiere shopping district here in London. Seven hundred thousand people are expected to flood this area looking for that all-important Boxing Day bargain.

Let's take a look at some of the scenes when a store called (inaudible), it's a luxury good department store, opened this morning. Thousands of people were outside and rushed through its doors in a stampede looking for those luxury goods, bargains.

We had a chance to speak to a couple of those shoppers who braved those crowds, and this is what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually am quite lucky. We avoided most of this. So that was quite handy, but I did see quite of a crush going on right at the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We missed out on the sales. We thought was worth our while getting up early this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got this at half price.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been doing it since the '70s. So it's a family tradition, more or less coming to this and especially the handbags, very good value.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bargain shopping for us in South Africa because of the exchange rate, it makes it very affordable for us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we came here to find some of the things we can't in our country and, yes, the sales are huge.


MCLAUGHLIN: So really, people from all over the world coming here for these sales, Alina. You mentioned that London underground tube strike that is the subway system here in London. It's operating on a limited schedule today.

I know that impacted my morning commute, but it doesn't look at the moment to have affected shoppers too badly, although we'll have to see how the rest of the day plays out.

Many of them are coming in by foot even or by bus, London's operating 200 extra buses to help those shoppers out here today --Alina.

CHO: There's been so much talk about the retail sector being so weak. I mean, just how good are the sales? Are people actually out there buying or they just out there running around and looking, Erin?

MCLAUGLIN: Well, it's a very good question. I spoke to one retail spokesperson just a couple of minutes ago and he says that they've estimated some $20 million in sales just in the last three hours in this area of London, although it remains to be seen how the rest of the U.K. is faring.

Christmas sales came late this year. Many analysts have told me, and that, in part, probably due to the fact that Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, which -- or a Sunday, rather, this year, which allowed Saturday for shoppers to get out and do all of that last- minute Christmas shopping.

That meant that many retailers slash their prices early and started promotions early. As you mentioned, Alina, still remains to be seen how exactly that discounting will affect Boxing Day sales here.

CHO: All right. Erin McLaughlin live for us in London with that story. Erin, thank you very much.

VELSHI: Still to come this morning, the president is on vacation finally in Hawaii. How the commander in chief is mixing business and pleasure this holiday season. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It is 41 minutes after the hour. We're coming right back.


CHO: The Hawaiian version of "Over the Rainbow." I like that. Good morning. That's because, you know, the occupants of the White House are not occupying the White House at this particular moment. They are in Hawaii where it is much warmer than it is in Washington, mostly cloudy and 44, partly cloudy with a high of 47 a little bit later on. VELSHI: President Obama is celebrating Christmas in Hawaii, sort of, with the first family after winning that bruising battle in Washington about the payroll tax cut, the extension of it.

CNN's White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, drew the short straw for CNN and is traveling with the president in Hawaii.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Aloha to you, Ali and Alina. President Obama left Washington on Friday shortly after signing that payroll tax cut extension into law and because this is the biggest part of his jobs plan, he came here to Hawaii with a political victory very much under his belt, and now is expected to spend his time here resting and relaxing not far from where he grew up. On Christmas Eve he did something he frequently does, loves to do, he played a round of golf. Then he made phone calls to servicemen and women serving overseas and had dinner with his family. Then on Christmas the first family went to church on a Marine base not far from the house they're staying at. All of the Obama women donning sleeveless dresses because the weather here is just beautiful. And then the first family also greeted military men and women there at that marine base later on Christmas.

Now at this point there's no public events on the president's schedule. We're expecting him to do a number of other kind of typical Hawaiian vacation activities with his family, maybe some more golf. But he will, of course, be receiving his daily national security briefing, as he always does, because this is always a working vacation for President Obama. Ali and Alina?

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Brianna. That's Brianna and the Brianna Keilar band while she was talking as an accompaniment whenever she goes anywhere.


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Not the Hawaiian version of "Over the Rainbow."

You just watched the president greeting members of the military and their families on Christmas Day. I'm guessing you probably didn't see this. Take a look. After taking an earful from House leaders for weeks, that's the commander in chief getting a mouthful courtesy of the son of a marine captain Greg Wagner. CNN has not been able to verify whether the little guy is a Republican or Democrat.

VELSHI: All right, our funny animal video of the day, because we can. Remember the Taco Bell Chihuahua? This one doesn't speak, but it dances.




VELSHI: That's Stewart, the salsa dancing dog. He's a YouTube sensation with nearly 1.2 million views. He's dancing a meringue, not the salsa. The dog is on a leash. It's not a tight leash. It's connected to that chair behind him so he doesn't run away. And he seems to dancing of his own volition. I can't dance like that. I can't dance like nothing. Don't get me started. We're going to lose viewers if I get out there and dance.

CHO: Your top stories are next, plus counting down to 2012. What can we look forward to in the entertainment world? We'll talk about what you should be watching out for. That's coming up. It's 48 minutes after the hour.


VELSHI: It's 49 after hour. Here are your morning headlines.

Syria is accused of intensifying a bloody government crackdown even as Arab League observers head to the country today. The opposition says at least 18 more people have died. One activist in the city of Homs says attacks by government forces continued nonstop for more than three days.

A delegation of South Korean citizens, including a former first lady, visiting North Korea to mourn the loss of Kim Jong-il. Seoul has approved the civilian group visit but did not send an official delegation.

We're expecting a quiet week on Wall Street. Markets in the United States and Europe are closed for the holidays today. Trading resumes tomorrow. The final four sessions could determine whether some of the major indexes for 2011 are up or down.

Today is expected to be the third busiest shopping day of the year as people mob the stores with returns and gift cards to unload and with retailers slashing prices before the new year.

And the ghosts come alive at the box office. "Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," cruises, pun intended, to number one this holiday weekend. The Tom Cruise sequel raked in $26.5 million, beating out another sequel, "Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows."

That's the news you need to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is coming right back after the break.


CHO: Good morning, New York City. Beautiful shot of Central Park, where it is cloudy, or not so cloudy. It's 42 degrees, up to a high of 45 and a sunny day in the big apple.

Welcome back. 2012 hasn't even started yet, and it's already predicted to be a blowout year for entertainment and pop culture, from music to TV to the silver screen. Expect to see some new twists on old favorites and breakout performances from the next big stars. Here now to dish on what we're looking forward to is "Us Weekly's" senior editor Ian Drew. Ian, nice to see you.


CHO: Merry Christmas.

DREW: Day after.

CHO: Exactly. Boxing Day.

DREW: Time to get into it.

CHO: That's right. Let's talk about movies. We have been seeing trailers for the new Batman film with Christian Bale, looking forward to that. And also I have been reading a lot about this "Rock of Ages" movie with Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin. Those are two that I'm looking forward to. What else should we be watching?

DREW: Well, not to make "Rock of Ages" a footnote. That is to me going to be the movie event of the year. But we're also going to see the return of "Titanic." It's going to be in 3D. A lot of people want to have that first date night over with that movie.

CHO: Who's going to be in it? Do you know?

DREW: It's the original "Titanic" that they are releasing in 3D. So we'll see that come back. Everyone will be going back and whipping out the Celine Dion records and remembering Kate and Leo back in the old days.

CHO: I remember sobbing in the movie theater when that came out.


DREW: Exactly.

CHO: Also a big year in TV. "Mad men" coming back after a year off. They had to work out worker issues.

DREW: And January Jones had a baby meantime.

CHO: "American Idol" also coming back. Are those the two biggies? Or are there other ones to watch?

DREW: I predict we'll see a decline in these music competition shows. There's just too many. We're going to see "The Voice" come back. But all of these artists that are coming off of it aren't taking off that much anymore.

CHO: But "American Idol" is still the number one show out there, isn't it?

DREW: I think you'll see a dip in ratings. There's just too many of the shows now. But what you'll see an increase in is "America's Got Talent." Howard Stern premiering as a judge. Everyone will be hanging on his every word.

CHO: That's going to be huge, replacing our very own Piers Morgan as a judge. We want to look at some of the breakout acting stars we should be watching. Kristin Wiig, I think I'm the only person in America that hasn't seen "Bridesmaids" yet.

DREW: You're missing out.


CHO: A huge film. She just wrapped shooting a film with a producer friend of mine which I am looking forward to seeing. And then there's Rooney Mara, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

DREW: Kristin Wiig is going to bring back the "SNL" star as a breakout massive movie star. We haven't had that in a few years. All the people that left "SNL" to start movie careers haven't really taken off.

CHO: Will Ferrell.

DREW: That was a while ago. So this will be a return to that. And also Rooney Mara getting a golden globe nomination for her first movie. Everybody will see how she makes that momentum last.

CHO: She is also very well respected in the fashion world as well, which I happen to like.

I want to take a look at music. I have to say I am not ashamed to admit I am a huge Madonna fan.

DREW: Who isn't?

CHO: That's true. She's coming out with a new album next year?

DREW: Yes.

CHO: Unbelievable. She's going to perform at the Super Bowl. What's that all about?

DREW: She is still going. She is the ultimate workaholic. And she'll show everyone why she is still the queen of pop. In the last years you've had Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and all of these people rise up, but Madonna doesn't like her throne to go down. She wants to hold onto it. Speaking of Gaga, she will be back out on the road again. And you know when she tours, she tours endlessly.

CHO: I have seen her in concert three times. Every single time, it's great.

DREW: Never gets old.

CHO: It never gets old, I have to say. But the Mad, still the queen in my book.

DREW: And Adele, she has a lot of concert dates to make up. She is recovering from vocal surgery. It's at the Grammy were everyone will be waiting to see if she opens up her voice and sings again. CHO: Is she doing ok?

DREW: She's doing fine and looking good.

CHO: She has a phenomenal voice.

All right, Ian Drew, happy holidays. Great to see you.

DREW: You too.

CHO: Your top stories are next, including fire at the post office. Now they are actually trying to dry out all the mail. Was it arson? What happened? We'll tell you. Those stories and much more are straight ahead. It's 57 minutes after the hour.